Wednesday, June 8, 2011

6/8/11—Keeping Your Creative Energy Flowing

Today's Draw: The Five of Wands from the Artists Inner Vision Tarot. Do you work in a field where everyone has an opinion of your work? Do you feel stripped of your creative energy? Are you tired of dingoes eating your creative babies?

The Five of Wands is about conflict and disagreement, but nothing too serious (though it may seem that way at the time). These are the kind of conflicts we face regularly. Usually considered conflict over creative ideas, these types of debates can often lead to great collaborations and great solutions. 

The dude in this card is pained by these disagreements, though. They deplete his energy, dry up the earth before him, which can be symbolic of the fertile ground where ideas grow. He's so distracted by the problems that he is stifling his own creativity. And the opposing views hang over his head, making him question his own "true north". He wants to make a move, he wants to go somewhere, but he remains fixed, stuck in his head. 

As an advertising copywriter, a conflict-free creative life is unthinkable. Everyone has an opinion. Everyone has a dog in the fight. And, as the bottom dweller on the totem pole, I'm usually the one that has to suck it up while others get their own way...haha. Actually, it's more of a "choose your battles" sort of thing. When I choose my battles, I usually win because they know when I push back, I mean it. 

But it's not always about winning or losing the fight, nor is it even healthy to think of it that way. I can't remember the first time it happened, but once a long time ago someone sent my work back to me with all sorts of edits and comments. And, as usual at the time, I decided they were idiots, questioned why I'd chosen this career and started to make the fixes grudgingly. But something happened on this particular occasion. Somewhere in the comments, they challenged me to rethink my direction in the copy. And I did. And it ended up being better. Much better. 

So, from that experience, I adopted a new attitude. Maybe when someone was "ruining" my work, it was actually an opportunity to make it better. If I put ego out of the way, that is. And I shifted from someone who was in it for my own glory to someone who was in it for the collaboration...the work. And guess what happened next? The collaboration started fueling my glory. 

As I was writing this very entry, a client called and said we needed to re-think the direction of something. And, while my instincts still want to revolt and fight the process and prove my original thinking was right, my mind is at ease. Maybe they're right. Maybe things aren't gelling as well as they could. So lets work together as a team to make it work for everyone. I'm no longer married to my words as I once was. And, as a self-employed person, I also don't have to work for anyone who is. Every once in a while you come across a client who insists on saying what they want to say, instead of what the audience wants to hear. That's the one place I draw the line in this whole "collaboration" thing. That's just bad marketing and I won't do it. But beyond that and anything that is misleading,  dishonest or exploitative (which has only happened once in 25 years), all edits, comments and collaborations are fair game.

Whether it's a critique, a rejected project or just "creative differences", if you're going to work in any sort of creative career, you have to learn to roll with the punches. Yes, it's a disappointment and may even hurt your feelings. After all, you've poured a lot of yourself into the project and wouldn't have submitted it if you didn't feel it was right. But when you get all caught up in the injustice of it all, you restrict the flow of creativity. And when you start to work in order to please others, you also close off the flow of creativity. The only way to do it is to do what you think is right and risk someone disagreeing with you or rejecting your work. But if they do, keep your mind open, because they may be angels in disguise, sent to make your work even better the second time around.

Like everything in life, your creative freedom and fulfillment hinges not on what other think, but the attitude *you* bring to the table. Get too married to your words or your brush strokes and you won't have a happy marriage. Know what matters and what doesn't. Know what's worth fighting for. And see your critics as the bearers of the opportunity to do better next time around. After all, maybe they have a point. Anytime you enter a creative career, you will have a long list of people you have to please before pleasing yourself. The trick is to not only learn how to maintain your creative integrity, but to also please yourself by pleasing others. The good news is that you're a creative person. So you'll find a way.

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